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Crimean Resistance to Russian Aggression and Moscow’s Savage Revenge

26.02.2021
Halya Coynash

Demonstration on 26.02.2014, Russian operation against civic activists and journalists on 27.03.2019 (First from qha.com.ua, second from Crimean Solidarity)

On 26 February 2014, around 10 thousand Crimean Tatars and other Ukrainians foiled Russia’s attempt to seize control of Crimea without open deployment of soldiers.  Although unable to prevent Russia’s invasion, they did help ensure that the aggression was recognized as such, which Moscow has not forgiven.  Exactly seven years later, Russia is prosecuting Sevilya Omerova for a peaceful single-person picket calling for the release of her husband and father-in-law.  Enver Omerov and his son, Riza, are among at least 115 Ukrainian political prisoners, now held in occupied Crimea or Russia, most of whom are Crimean Tatars. 

We now know that Russia’s massive military build-up and plans for seizure of power began earlier, on 20 February 2014, however the Kremlin was clearly hoping that an illegal vote in the Crimean parliament on changing Crimea’s status would conceal this first annexation of another European state’s sovereign territory since Adolf Hitler.  The Mejlis, or self-governing body, of the Crimean Tatar people learned of the plans by certain pro-Russian politicians, doubtless in collaboration with Russia’s FSB, and organized the huge demonstration in support of Ukrainian unity on 26 February.  The illegal vote could not take place, and at 4 a.m. on 27 February 2014, Russian soldiers without insignia began their seizure of power.  Moscow still maintained its pretence with a pseudo ‘referendum’, without any option for retaining the status quo, staged and used for the ‘formal’ annexation of Crimea on 18 March 2014.  The United Nations General Assembly and international community were never deceived, and sanctions were imposed.  In a crucial decision on 14 January this year, the European Court of Human Rights demolished Moscow’s false narrative about Crimeans having ‘voted to join’ Russia.  In finding most of Ukraine’s claims against Russia over human rights violations in occupied Crimea admissible, the Court accepted that Russia’s effective control over Ukrainian Crimea had begun on 27 February 2014.

On 26 February 2014 and since, Crimean Tatars have played an invaluable role in upholding Ukraine’s territorial integrity and insisting that the world does not forget that Crimea is Ukrainian.  They have also been the hardest hit by the relentless repression that Russia’s occupation brought to Crimea.

Almost all Crimean Tatar Mejlis leaders have been imprisoned, prosecuted or banned from their homeland (and then put ‘on trial’ in absentia, in the case of the world-renowned Mustafa Dzhemilev and Head of the Mejlis, Refat Chubarov).  The Mejlis itself has been banned, with Russia continuing to flout a binding order from the UN’s International Court of Justice to reinstate it issued in April 2017.

The imprisonment of Deputy Mejlis leader Akhtem Chiygoz and five other Crimean Tatars over the demonstration on 26 February 2014, and Russia’s rehash of these legally nonsensical charges in 2020, with its ‘trial’ in absentia of Refat Chubarov, make it clear that the main motive is revenge.  The prosecutions are overtly racist, since only Crimean Tatars have been targeted, although any trouble that day came from pro-Russian activists, most of whom seem to have been bussed in from Sevastopol.  They are also breathtakingly lawless since Russia is using its repressive legislation on supposed ‘mass riots’ over a largely peaceful demonstration which took place unequivocally on Ukrainian territory, under Ukrainian law. 

Almost all victims of the abductions and / or enforced disappearances that Russia brought to occupied Crimea have been Crimean Tatars.  While the first victim – 39-year-old peaceful protester, Reshat Ametov – was seized by the armed paramilitaries under Russian control, not Russian soldiers, Russia has never made any real attempt to prosecute those guilty of abducting him and savagely torturing him to death.  There are strong grounds for believing that other abductions, including that of Crimean Tatar activist Ervin Ibragimov, were carried out by Russian-controlled enforcement bodies.

Russia’s first political prisoner, Mykola Shyptur, remains imprisoned, along with well over 110 other Ukrainians.  The last release of political prisoners, including filmmaker Oleg Sentsov, was back in September 2019, and probably only happened because Russian President Vladimir Putin wanted to get Vladimir Tsemakh, a vital witness and possible suspect in the downing by a Russian Buk missile of Malaysian airliner MH17, away from Ukrainian and Dutch prosecutors.

While human rights NGOs and international bodies regularly point to shocking rights violations in occupied Crimea, more is needed to get the kind of publicity that will make the Kremlin understand that it loses more by not releasing the prisoners. 

Many acts of solidarity and support need only the Internet, and messages via Twitter or social media can help to highlight the tragic plight of Crimean Tatar and other Ukrainian political prisoners serving up to 20-year sentences without any crime.

Please write to at least one of the hostages below and help to ensure that people in other countries know about them.  The Russian FSB and other ‘investigators’ spend a lot of time trying to convince political prisoners that Ukraine has abandoned them, that nobody knows what they are going through, nor cares.  Even if it’s hard to write in Russian, your very letters will demonstrate that this is not the case. 

Crimean Tatar and other Ukrainian political prisoners held in occupied Crimea or Russia (press the name for more information)

Critical hearings or sentences are expected next week against

Oleh Prykhodko

Yunus Masharipov

‘Hizb ut-Tahrir’ conveyor belt prosecutions 

Fake ‘terrorism’ charges, used increasingly against civic activists and journalists and as part of Russia’s attempts to demonize Crimean Tatars.  Not one of the men was or is accused of a recognizable crime, yet several men have been sentenced to 18 or 19 years.

Sevastopol Crimean Tatars

Ruslan Zeytullaev 

(Ferat SaifullaevRustem Vaitov and Nuri Primov were released in early 2020 after serving wrongful sentences to the end )

10 May 2018           Enver Seytosmanov

Yalta Six   - the first gratuitously violent ‘operation’ on 11 February 2016, and then arrests of two very young men on 18 April 2016.            

Emir-Usein Kuku, the first human rights activist, against whom Russia used ‘Hizb ut-Tahrir’ charges, after other persecution failed to silence him.  See:

“Crimea is our land. We did not give it to Russia, nor did we sell it”

Muslim Aliev  

See: Stalin took Crimean Tatar Dilyara Alieva’s homeland and parents; Putin’s Russia has taken her son

Inver Bekirov

Vadim Siruk

Arsen Dzhepparov

Refat Alimov

Bakhchysarai Four  - four men arrested on 12 May 2016

Enver Mamutov

Rustem Abiltarov

Zevri Abseitov

Remzi Memetov

Simferopol Five   - five men, including two brothers, both of them lawyers and Ukrainian sports champions

Teymur Abdullayev

Uzeir Abdullayev

See:  “Mama, have they come to kill us?” Russia’s new-old terror and deportation of Crimean Tatars

Emil Dzhemadenov

Aider Saledinov

Rustem Ismailov

Bakhchysarai ‘Crimean Solidarity’ arrests    

Suleyman (Marlen) Asanov    19-year sentence because he refused to leave Crimea

Ernes Ametov  

Memet Belyalov: 18-year sentence for discussing religion in Russian-occupied Crimea  Timur Ibragimov   

Seiran Saliyev   sentenced to 16 years on same political changes as those against his great-grandfather in Soviet times 

Server Zekiryaev  

Server Mustafayev

Edem Smailov

14 February 2019    ‘Krasnogvardeysk group’

Rustem Emiruseinov

Arsen Abkhairov

Eskender Abdulganiev 

27 March 2019  ‘Operation’ against Crimean Tatar civic activists and journalists in which 23 men were seized and almost immediately taken to Russia.  Two other men – Rayim Aivazov and Eskender Suleymanov were arrested later.

Izet Abdulayev, actively attended politically motivated ‘court’ hearings

Tofik Abdulgaziev, Crimean Solidarity activist

Vladlen Abdulkadyrov. activist involved in organizing parcels of food, etc. for political prisoners

Medzhit Abdurakhmanov Crimean Solidarity activist

Bilyal Adilov religious figure who also actively attended politically motivated ‘court’ hearings

Rayim Aivazov  Crimean Solidarity activist

Enver Ametov  actively attended politically motivated ‘court’ hearings

Osman Arifmemetov  Crimean Solidarity civic journalist and activist

See: Bitter echoes of Stalin’s Deportation in Russia’s persecution of Crimean Tatars

Farkhod Bazarov  Crimean Solidarity activist

Akim Bekirov civic activist involved in organizing parcels of food, etc. for political prisoners

Remzi Bekirov  Crimean Solidarity civic journalist

Dzhemil Gafarov actively attended all politically motivated ‘court’ hearings.  Gafarov has a serious kidney disorder and even according to Russian law should not be in detention. 

Servet Gaziev, 15.04.1960, actively attended all politically motivated ‘court’ hearings

Riza Izetov  human rights activist and Crimean Solidarity civic journalist

Alim Karimov Crimean Solidarity activist

Seiran Murtaza  actively attended all politically motivated ‘court’ hearings. He has two children.

Yashar Muyedinov  Crimean Solidarity activist

Erfan Osmanov actively attended all politically motivated ‘court’ hearings

Seitveli Seitabdiev  Crimean Solidarity activist

Rustem Seitkhalilov Crimean Solidarity activist

Rustem Sheikhaliev  Crimean Solidarity civic journalist

Eskender Suleymanov,  Crimean Solidarity activist.

Ruslan Suleymanov  Crimean Solidarity civic journalist and activist

Shaban Umerov Crimean Solidarity activist

Asan Yanikov  civic activist involved in organizing food parcels for political prisoners.

10 June 2019  FSB “We’ll get around to shooting you all”   

‘Belogorsk group’  - including a father and son

Aider Dzhapparov

Enver Omerov

Riza Omerov

‘Alushta Group’

Eldar Kantimirov

Lenur Khalilov

Ruslan Mensutov

Ruslan Nahaev

11 March 2020   Another ‘family prosecution’ – civic activists and their relatives

Seytumer Seytumerov

Osman Seytumerov  (the sons of renowned Crimean Tatar historian Shurki Seytumerov)

Rustem Seytmemetov  (the Seytumerovs’ uncle)

Amet Suleymanov – a Crimean Solidarity activist and journalist (streaming information about arrests and political trials onto the Internet).  He had recently restricted such civic activism, but only because of very serious heart problems.  This is one of only two cases where death in detention was presumably deemed so likely that Suleymanov was placed under house arrest.

7 July 2020  New FSB low, with arrest of a blind man with limited mobility and many others.  At least four of the men Vadim Bektemirov; Alexander Sizikov; Alim Sufianov and Emil Ziyadinov all took part in measures to help political prisoners and ensure circulation of information about such repression

Vadim Bektemirov

Ismet Ibragimov

Seiran Khairedinov

Zekirya Muratov

Alexander Sizikov(placed under house arrest due to his severe disability, but Russia is still trying to claim that he “led a Hizb ut-Tahrir cell”)

Alim Sufianov

Emil Ziyadinov 

17 February 2021  New offensive against civic activists with the armed searches evidently only for so-called ‘prohibited literature’ 

Azamat Eyupov  

Oleh Fedorov

Ernest Ibragimov 

Lenur Seydametov 

Yashar Shikhametov 

Timur Yalkabov

Other religious persecution

Jehovah’s Witnesses

Serhiy Filatov

Artem Gerasimov

Yevhen Zhukov

Volodymyr Maladyka

Volodymyr Sakada

Ihor Schmidt

‘Ukrainian Saboteur’ cases without any acts of sabotage or proof 

Andriy Zakhtei

Oleksiy Bessarabov

Volodymyr Dudka

Dmytro Shtyblikov

Hennady Lymeshko  

Kostyantin Davydenko 

Denis Kashuk

Mystery ‘spying’

Valentin Vyhivsky  Imprisoned since September 2014

Viktor Shur

Leonid Parkhomenko  

Vladimir Morgunov

Halyna Dovhopola   Russian occupiers of Crimea puts 66-year-old Ukrainian on trial for ‘state treason’

Oleksandr Marchenko  Russia sentences Ukrainian political prisoner to 10 years after abducting him from Donbas

Konstantin Shyrinha

Vasyl Vasylenko  

Ivan Yatskin

Punishment for Euromaidan or for opposing Russia’s annexation of Crimea

Mykola Shyptur  imprisoned since March 2014

Oleksiy Chyrniy 

Andriy Kolomiyets   

Accused of membership in Ukraine of perfectly legal organizations which Russia demonizes, including the Noman Çelebicihan (or Asker) Battalion which, despite its name, is not an armed formation

Maxim Filatov

Fevzi Sahandzhy

Edem Kadyrov

Dilyaver Gafarov

Aidyn Mamutov

Nariman Mezhmedinov

Medzhit Ablyamitov

Other Ukrainian political prisoners

Rustem Abilev

Serhiy Buhaichuk

Yevhen Karakashev

Ihor KIyashko

Maxim Sokurenko 

 

 

 

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